How many of us can visit somewhere without wondering how it has changed over the years? For some reason this is a tendency which seems stronger when the place you are visiting is coastal. Perhaps this is because coastal scenery and fixtures like harbours tend to be relatively unchanging, though there are striking exceptions: and this relatively unchanging background framework allows a much clearer view of what has changed. Or perhaps it is the way coastal scenery strikes a romantic chord in the residents of an island nation? Or could it simply be the way every harbour around Scotland seems to have associated stories of how it was once possible to walk from one side of it to the other over the massed fishing boats without encountering clear water?
Jenny Main's "The Moray Coast From Cullen to Culbin Through Time" sets out to answer the question "how has it changed" for the extremely attractive north facing coast of Moray, and the book progresses from Cullen in the east to the Culbin Sands in the west. After a brief introduction to the area, the book moves on to its core content, a series of geographical chapters in which historical photographs are set out in a way that allows direct comparison with modern photographs. Sometimes the old and new photographs are taken of the same scene and from the same viewpoint, allowing a very direct sense of how much places have changed and in what way. In other cases the modern photographs show a different angle on the same scene, or a different part of the same place. This variety of approach stops the book becoming formulaic, though in many cases the most interesting pairs of photographs are those which allow the reader to make direct comparisons.
Each pair of photographs is accompanied by a paragraph of background information about the place or the scene depicted, and as a result the reader is taken on a thoroughly enjoyable journey along this fascinating coast. The book would have been even better for readers from outwith the area had it contained a map showing the location of the main places included: but in this day and age maps are readily available to anyone with an Internet connection, so that is not a major drawback.